Thursday, November 30, 2006
The Anatomy of a Name
Tomorrow is World AIDS Day, and as I was researching this week's podcast on that topic, I came across something remarkable - the acronym GRID. It was actually the original name for what is today known as AIDS, but what it stands for shocked me: Gay Related Immune Deficiency. Some called it GRID. Others called it Gay Compromise Syndrome or even "gay cancer."

These names didn't reflect hatred or disapproval but rather a limited understanding of the origins and scope of the disease. But 25 years later, knowing what we know now, it really shook my sensibilities. You see, I was born in 1982, the year after AIDS was first reported, so I guess by the time I was old enough to understand this tragic disease, the world understood it better too, and had given it a much more appropriate name.

Now, more than 40 million people worldwide - straight and gay - are living with HIV/AIDS. And 25 million others have already died from the disease, and in many sub-Saharan African countries, AIDS affects more than 20 percent of the population. Those are mind-blowing numbers! Think of it this way: The only thing affecting that many people in the United States is obesity.

But coming up with a better name is not all that's been done in 25 years. Faster diagnostic tests, better treatments and researchers around the world working towards a cure are a good start. We can only hope that the attention paid to the disease each December 1 will bring us closer to eradicating a global killer.

Make sure to check out the "Paging Dr. Gupta" podcast on iTunes and CNN.com/health for some tips on how to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Matt,

I highly recommend you read And The Band Played On, written by Randy Shiltes, a news reporter with the SF Chronicle. It takes you back to 1976, when the disease makes its first appearance. The book is 1,000 times better than the movie.

Also, members of the National Nurse Team, a grassroots group of nurses, are working towards the goal of establishing an Office of the National Nurse to deliver the message of prevention for diseases such as HIV and obesity to every American. Visit www.nationalnurse.org to learn more about this exciting proposal and the current bill in Congress-HR 4903, the National Nurse Act of 2006 that now has 41 House co-sponsors.
Matt,

I value the blog post with regards to paradigm shift of society, however, I would like to point out that the link, "How AIDS got its name," is actually deceiving. Although you cite the original nomenclature for the disease, you do not bring forth how AIDS actually got its name. I would add to the recommended reading list several other books, but two in particular. Level 4 Virus Hunters of the CDC, by J. McCormick, which has various chapters on HIV/AIDS from a first hand point of view, and Dawning Answers: How HIV/AIDS Has Shaped Public Health, edited by R. Valdiserri.
Matt, I believe that Dr. Gupta had pointed out that AIDS had gotten a different name in this peice "You see, I was born in 1982, the year after AIDS was first reported, so I guess by the time I was old enough to understand this tragic disease, the world understood it better too, and had given it a much more appropriate name." and considering more than 40 million worldwide it desrved a different name.

I dont understand how or why it was narrowed, except for fear and taboo. Which is simply ignorance.

HIV/AIDS is a terrible disease and we are all touched or effected by it in some way.
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